Leaving Neverland

Michael Jackson and Wade Robson posing in one of Jackson’s iconic moves. Robson has accused Jackson of sexually abusing him as a child in the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland.”

 

After decades of controversy surrounding the famous musician, “Leaving Neverland” sensationalizes allegations about Michael Jackson, but stops short of presenting any new evidence about the past.

Featuring testimony from two boys who were close to Jackson when they were young, Wade Robson and James Safechuck discuss their past experiences with Jackson in graphic detail, to the point where it seemed like it only served as shock value. Overall, the documentary is four hours long, oftentimes feeling slow and grueling to watch.

Similar to other documentaries, “Leaving Neverland” featured sound-over-tape commentary and showed photos or footage of Robson and Safechuck’s childhoods.

Most of the footage and images in “Leaving Neverland” show deeper detail of what reportedly happened behind the scenes in an attempt to make viewers feel empathy for them and what they say they went through, which made me feel uneasy throughout.

Giving no details of those close to Jackson, “Leaving Neverland,” while entertaining, felt biased from beginning to end. The documentary featured information from Robson, Safechuck and others, but failed to produce a source that wasn’t as biased.

In addition to being biased, the documentary is often unconvincing. What Robson and Safechuck discussed in the documentary was already public knowledge. They came forward in the past about what happened when they were with Jackson. This account was the two speaking about the allegations again, but was a krass and graphic depiction of the events. They originally came forward and sued Jackson’s estate for reparations for the things Jackson had allegedly done to them, however the lawsuit was eventually dropped. That knowledge makes the information in the documentary feel sensationalized and therefore unconvincing.

With “Leaving Neverland” releasing at the height of exposure of sexual abuse accusations nationwide, supporting Jackson could be more problematic than in the past, even if the allegations are not true. Robson and Safechuck spend most of the documentary discussing details from the past, without presenting anything new. While it was scandalous and interesting, it was not worth revisiting previous testimony, even in this informal documentary.

Michael Jackson made fantastic music during his career, but his legacy will forever be tarnished by controversy. The allegations that have accrued over the years are tragic for both his accusers and his legacy. It is difficult to decipher what the truth is in all of this, but regardless of whether Jackson was guilt, many people have been hurt.

Overall, “Leaving Neverland” was an entertaining and scandalous reexamination of Jackson’s past, through the eyes of Robson and Safechuck, but that was all the documentary strived to be, leaving out other voices and accounts in order to keep a single narrative.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98 percent

TV Rating: TV-MA

The Arkansas Traveler Score: B

 

Zachery Sutherland is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where he has been a staff reporter since February 2019.

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